Banned Books week is over! I hope everyone read a banned book and fought for the freedom to read! Here is a little review of Looking for Alaska by John Green.
There were a lot of things I really liked about this book. One of my absolute favorites is the metaphor of the labyrinth that is introduced near the beginning of the book and is carried through until the end. The book is also organized into two sections, "before" and "after" and it's interesting to see the change between the two. It's a good look at grief, friendship, and intimacy. It also touches a bit on religion, belief, and life after death.
There was a great part that I liked in the second half of the book where the religion teacher is telling a story about a Sufi saint:
Karl Marx famously called religion "the opiate of the masses." Buddhism, particularly as it is popularly practiced, promises improvement through karma. Islam and Christianity promise eternal paradise to the faithful. And that is a powerful opiate, certainly, the hope of a better life to come. But there's a Sufi story that challenges the notion that people believe only because they need an opiate. Rabe'a al-Adiwiyah, a great woman saint of Sufism, was seen running through the streets of her hometown, Basra, carrying a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. When someone asked her what she was doing, she answered, "I am going to take this bucket of water and pour it on the flames of hell, and then I am going to use this torch to burn down the gates of paradise so that people will not love God for want of heaven or fear of hell, but because He is God." (p. 174)
I just thought that was thought provoking, especially as a devout Christian.
There were some things that I didn't particularly like/enjoy. I do have to admit that of Green's novels, this is probably my least favorite. There is the sex scene, as well as the use of drugs and alcohol by teens, and some language.
After I finished it, I was talking to my mom who was a middle school librarian, and, obviously, is a parent, and as such has a different perspective on things. Through talking with her I decided that I think this book would be most appropriate for 17/18+, and, if I were a parent, I would prefer to have it be a guided reading. I would probably read along with my child (though, depending on the child, I may or may not wish them to wait until they read this book). There are some pretty adult things in the book, and that requires a certain maturity. Not that I'm going to go out and ban this book (obviously, because I'm against that), but it's my own personal observations and decisions. Maybe my experience with it will help form someone else's decision on whether or not they feel the book is right for them or their child.
I'm not a parent, so I don't want anyone to think I am stepping on toes, but my advice to parents is to read whatever book you think offensive before making a final decision. Get other people's views on it (possibly even the author's, as I did for Alaska) and make an educated and informed decision about it.
Well, that's it for this year's banned book week, but don't let that stop you from continuing to read banned books! Book of the Month post will be up tomorrow!